Russia Wants To Go Back to the Negotiating Table – What Do They Expect?: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted on Thursday as saying that the goals of the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine remain unchanged, but that the Kremlin is open to achieving its goals through negotiations.
Putin Willing to Negotiate?
It wasn’t an admission of defeat, nor was it a suggestion that Russia is backtracking on its many demands from Ukraine, but it was an indication that the Kremlin is looking for ways to bring the conflict to an end.
Peskov’s comments were made to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, and come just days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said something very similar.
“The direction has not changed, the special military operation continues, it continues in order for us to achieve our goals,” Peskov reportedly said. “However, we have repeatedly reiterated that we remain open to negotiations to achieve our objectives.”
Peskov also predicted that the West would not be willing to engage in the discussions, citing the “hostile” attitude towards Russia – a claim often used to defend Russia’s hostility towards the West.
Peskov has, throughout the conflict, repeatedly parroted the line that the West wants Russia to be destroyed as a result of some kind of innate “Russophobia.”
“It takes two sides to have a dialogue,” Peskov told Kazakhstan’s Khabar 24 TV channel. “As the West is now taking a very, very hostile stance towards us, it’s unlikely that there will be any such prospect in the near future.”
Lavrov’s suggestion on Tuesday that Moscow was still open to talks with the West over the conflict was also dismissed as “posturing” by Washington. The Russian official made the comments during an interview on Russian state television, saying that Moscow would engage in talks with Turkey and the West on ways to bring the conflict to an end.
United States Department of State spokesman Ned Price responded to the comments, describing how the White House has “very little confidence” that the offer was genuine given that the comments came only hours after Russia finished bombing residential buildings and civilian infrastructure across Ukraine.
“We see this as posturing. We do not see this as a constructive, legitimate offer to engage in the dialogue and diplomacy that is absolutely necessary to see an end to this brutal war of aggression,” Price said.
What Does Russia Want?
At some points during the conflict, Russia engaged in peace talks while in somewhat of a position of power.
Russian forces have made gains throughout Ukraine over the last several months, though much of those gains have since been lost. If Russia does sit back down at the negotiating table with Ukraine, however, Kremlin negotiators are unlikely to negotiate from a position of weakness.
Instead, new negotiations would be an opportunity for the Russians to see whether the ongoing campaign of terror and fear – which peaked with the bombing of Ukrainian residential buildings in cities across the country on Monday – is working.
Notably, Lavrov’s suggestion earlier this week that Moscow is open to talks with the West about the war in Ukraine did not come with a promise to walk back some of Russia’s demands – all of which have remained consistent throughout the conflict. The Kremlin has not indicated that anything other than the “liberation” of the Donbas would be an acceptable result of negotiations.
Instead, the Kremlin may be hoping that Western countries are thinking along the same lines as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who suggested earlier this month that the recent referendums in Ukraine be redone under the supervision of the United Nations.
Musk’s suggestion was welcomed by Moscow at the time and could be the focus of new negotiations should they go ahead.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.